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Posts Tagged ‘classical music

“Turn the page”*…

 

 

giphy

 

Like elevators, page turners are only remarkable when things go awry. And go awry they do…

 

But then…

There are breakout moments in musical history where turners become visible and audible through neither accident nor error. In Ravel’s two-piano version of his Introduction and Allegro, he calls for a mysterious “third hand ad lib.” to perform an impossible trill—a part that could only be executed by an especially daring page turner, reaching across the keyboard and right into the middle of the action. In the middle movement of Charles Ives’s Violin Sonata No.2, a raucous hoe-down, the composer’s manuscript features an additional stave with a drum-like rhythm instructing the page turner to smash out noisy cluster chords at the bottom end of the keyboard. It’s a strong reaction to anonymity…

Why pager turners matter (with an number of very amusing examples): “Turning Over.”

* Metallica (from the 1988 album “Garage, Inc.”)

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As we keep time, we might recall that it was on this date in 1897 that Alexander Scriabin’s piano concerto premiered in Odessa, with Scriabin as soloist.  Already a renowned pianist, the then-24-year-old Scriabin was making his debut as a composer for the orchestra (with what turned out to be his only concerto).  While this early work was influenced by Chopin, Scriabin went on to develop (independently of Schoenberg) an atonal musical system, and was one of the most innovative– and most controversial– of early modern composers.  The Great Soviet Encyclopedia said of Scriabin that “no composer has had more scorn heaped on him or greater love bestowed.”

Scriabin pf source

 

Written by LW

October 23, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Never miss a good chance to shut up”*…

 

 

Death metal band Dead Territory performing 4’33”, a 1952 composition by John Cage.

Written for any instrument or combination of instruments, the score instructs the performer(s) not to play their instrument(s) during the entire duration of the piece throughout the three movements.  Though often referred to as as “four minutes thirty-three seconds of silence,” the purpose of the piece is to focus the audience’s ears on the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed.

[TotH to The Whippet]

Black Sabbath, arguably the first heavy metal band, is turning 50 this year…

Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi credits a welding accident with the creation of the band’s signature sound. A machine at the factory where he worked as a teenager chopped off the tops of two of his fingers, which could have ended his guitar-playing days. But he fashioned thimbles with plastic and leather and put lighter-gauge strings on his guitar, down-tuned so they were looser and easier to play. The low, sludgy riffs he went on to write set the tone for metal music to this day…

The history of headbanging: “Heavy Metal.”

* Will Rogers

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As we savor the sounds of silence, we might recall that it was on this date in 1967, in Portland, that The Who began their first U.S. tour… as the opening act for Herman’s Hermits.  The Who played “Pictures of Lily” (a power-pop tune about masturbation) and their guitar-smashing finale, “My Generation” to warm the crowd for Peter Noone and his crew singing “There’s a Kind of Hush (All Over the World)” and “I’m Henry VIII, I Am.”

42321-photo-of-pete-townshend-and-who source

 

Written by LW

July 14, 2019 at 1:01 am

“The only truth is music”*…

 

The earliest known practical example of polyphonic music – a piece of choral music written for more than one part – has been found in a British Library manuscript in London.

The inscription is believed to date back to the start of the 10th century and is the setting of a short chant dedicated to Boniface, patron Saint of Germany. It is the earliest practical example of a piece of polyphonic music – the term given to music that combines more than one independent melody – ever discovered.

Written using an early form of notation that predates the invention of the stave, it was inked into the space at the end of a manuscript of the Life of Bishop Maternianus of Reims.

The piece was discovered by Giovanni Varelli, a PhD student from St John’s College, University of Cambridge, while he was working on an internship at the British Library. He discovered the manuscript by chance, and was struck by the unusual form of the notation. Varelli specialises in early musical notation, and realised that it consisted of two vocal parts, each complementing the other.

Polyphony defined most European music up until the 20th century, but it is not clear exactly when it emerged. Treatises which lay out the theoretical basis for music with two independent vocal parts survive from the early Middle Ages, but until now the earliest known examples of a practical piece written specifically for more than one voice came from a collection known as The Winchester Troper, which dates back to the year 1000.

Varelli’s research suggests that the author of the newly-found piece – a short “antiphon” with a second voice providing a vocal accompaniment – was writing around the year 900.

As well as its age, the piece is also significant because it deviates from the convention laid out in treatises at the time. This suggests that even at this embryonic stage, composers were experimenting with form and breaking the rules of polyphony almost at the same time as they were being written…

More background at “Earliest known piece of polyphonic music discovered.”

[TotH to @pickover]

* Jack Kerouac

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As we hum along, we might send melodic birthday greetings to two descendants of the author of the piece above:

Johannes Brahms, the pianist and composer who was a stalwart of the Romantic Period, was born on his date in 1833.

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And Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Brahms’ Russian Romantic counterpart– the first Russian composer to make an international impression–  was born on this date in 1840.

 source

 

Written by LW

May 7, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Imagination creates reality”*…

 

Wagner was and is so controversial before and after his appropriation by the Nazis, before and after 19th-century radical antisemitism led to the Holocaust, because art-making and self-fashioning on the scale on which Wagner worked are terrifying, at once attractive – drug-like, dream-inducing, mesmerising – and repulsive. Few of us are comfortable travelling so near the gravitational field of a man “who had access to parts of his psyche that most nice people hid from themselves” and who created from such a murky source dramas and music of horrible beauty…

A provocative review of a provocative book, Simon Callow’s Being Wagner: The Triumph of the Will: “What makes Wagner so controversial?

See also this fascinating piece on a man often linked with Wagner, Friedrich Nietzsche.

* Richard Wagner

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As we grab for The Ring, we might send melodic birthday greetings to Francesco Manfredini; he was born on this date in 1684.  A Baroque composer, violinist, and church musician, he was a contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach and Antonio Vivaldi.  Much of his music is presumed to have been destroyed after his death; only 43 published works and a handful of manuscripts are known.  But they are sufficient to have earned him a reputation as an accomplished composer (more in the vein of Vivaldi than Bach).

 source

 

Written by LW

June 22, 2017 at 1:01 am

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